Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg and climate activists attend an Oily Money Out and Fossil Free London protest, in London, Britain, October 17, 2023.
Toby Melville | Reuters
LONDON — Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on Tuesday was detained by police after joining hundreds of protesters to disrupt a major energy conference in London.
Thunberg was arrested outside the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel during the “Oily Money Out” protest organized by Fossil Free London and Greenpeace.
The demonstration was held on the first day of the Energy Intelligence Forum, a three-day gathering of major oil and gas executives, politicians, and civil society groups.
“We need direct action to take back the power from the oil elite that has gathered here today behind closed doors. Their only plan is to profit at our expense,” Nuri Syed Corser, an organizer with Fossil Free London, said in a statement.
“Arrests like these will not deter us. Our right to protest is our own, it is not given to us by the Government,” Corser added.
Among those scheduled to speak at the Energy Intelligence Forum, formerly known as the Oil and Money conference, include Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser and Shell CEO Wael Sawan.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is taken into a police van after being arrested outside the InterContinental London Park Lane during the “Oily Money Out” demonstration organised by Fossil Free London and Greenpeace on the sidelines of the opening day of the Energy Intelligence Forum 2023 in London on October 17, 2023.
Henry Nicholls | Afp | Getty Images
Addressing a news conference outside the hotel earlier in the day, Thunberg said, “We have no other option but to put our bodies outside this conference and to physically disrupt and, we have to do that every time. We have to continue showing them that they are not going to get away with this.”
“This is only the beginning of this fight and we are going to stay and we are going to come back time and time again until we see real action,” she added. “We have to reclaim the power and that is what we are doing today. We have to kick oily money out.”
The 20-year-old was catapulted to fame for skipping school every Friday to hold a weekly vigil outside the Swedish Parliament in 2018.
Thunberg took part in her final so-called school strike in June as she graduated from school, signing off after 251 consecutive weeks of demonstrations with a warning that “the fight has only just begun.”
Fossil Free London said 27 people have been arrested so far and protests would continue outside the conference through to Thursday.
The Met Police said in a statement via X, formerly known as Twitter, that it had imposed conditions on the protestors under Section 14 of the Public Order Act “to prevent serious disruption to the community, hotel and guests.”
It said a number of protestors failed to comply, with six people arrested for obstruction of the highway, 14 arrests for Section 14 of the Public Order Act, and one for criminal damage.
Section 14 of the Public Order Act allows the police to impose conditions on a public group to prevent a range of issues, including “significant impact on persons or serious disruption to the activities of an organisation by noise; serious disorder [and] serious damage to property.”
Big Oil has been accused of dialing back its climate pledges in recent months following record annual profits that were described by human rights group Amnesty International as “patently unjustifiable” and “an unmitigated disaster.”
Speaking at the ADIPEC oil and gas conference in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, chief executives of some of the world’s largest energy majors sought to defend themselves from climate criticism.
“We’ve got to step up and prepare for the decarbonized systems of the future,” Tengku Muhammad Taufik, president and group CEO of Malaysia’s state energy firm, Petronas, said during a CNBC-moderated panel on Oct. 2.
“So, the debate has always been posed here, I’m reminded of an old saying: ‘If you want to keep everyone happy, sell ice cream.’ We are not in the business of ice cream — and I’m reminded, there are people who are lactose intolerant,” Taufik said.
Climate activists protest outside the InterContinental London Park Lane during the “Oily Money Out” demonstration organised by Fossil Free London on the sidelines of the opening day of the Energy Intelligence Forum 2023 in London on October 17, 2023.
Henry Nicholls | Afp | Getty Images
The burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, is the chief driver of the climate crisis.
As had been widely expected, a major U.N. report published last month confirmed that the world is currently not on track to meet the long-term goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a landmark accord that aims to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
The world has warmed by around 1.1 degrees Celsius after more than a century of burning fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use. Indeed, it is this temperature increase that is fueling a series of extreme weather events around the world.